Are Indian playwrights in English a dying breed?
Mar 07 2013
Whenever a language becomes organic and grows into a hybrid form, it becomes both contrasting and original. Fusion of any kind has unusual textures and sometimes, contradictory hues. Take for example, pan Asian cuisine. The simple samosa has lent itself to a fusion with seafood! Firstly, we speak in multiple languages, fusing could be English with Hindi and Sanskrit mantras in the background. It could be a Punjabi character on stage who fluently swings from Punjabi to English and Bengali. Sometimes Urdu words describe a thing best, the mot juste.
Playwrights seek so many new identities, new routes, new ways of speaking, which is why I find stage writing very challenging. It is neither the short story, nor the novel, nor prose, nor poetry, it is a story told in pictures. It is the dramatic idiom. Dramatic action. The use of heart, imagination and language are the ingredients a playwright uses. But to be honest, when a playwright writes the story, it is like in invisible ink. When the director stages it, it becomes visible through the actors. From page to stage is a dynamic process of coming alive! I know when I published a play of mine, “Women In Black”, the amount of revisions I wrote for stage were innumerable. It must fit the palette and body of the actor playing the role. ‘One size fits all’ does not work! A good playwright is one who gives the actor choices, conflict and open ends.
Picture this: a young boy sitting on the beach, “I am not Freud...but even I know this that you have to face an addiction to knock it out of you…ladki hai kya? Oye, bhau time nahin hai mala...listen to this tune...(a Bengali tune takes them back to their childhood days).
So many different hues, English, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and maybe they are sitting in Puri on a beach. Theatre has a great versatility to it that can go from love to loss to comedy in multiple languages in a matter of minutes! In fact, if you have a good actor, simple lines become magic on stage. There was a time we staged stodgy English plays where everything was communicated in sub text. Now, playwrights are passionate, vividly expressive and have their feet planted in global roots. Audiences too, are open to shifts in the place of old English-only scripts; they too want a new world order to emerge on stage!
(The writer is a theatre director and novelist)